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Christmas in Greece: a celebration for your senses

Celebrating Christmas and New Year’s Eve in Greece means entering a magical world that has to be experienced with all of your senses! Pictures of unparalleled beauty; delicious flavours; intoxicating scents and joyful melodies form a mosaic of unforgettable experiences taking us back to our age of innocence. Feel the Christmas spirit and…who knows? Maybe you’ll come across some kind of elf hiding behind the Christmas tree if you are lucky enough!

Oneiroupoli_Drama. © GNTO/Drama Prefecture

Experience the magic!

See

The Christmas tale coming alive / countless white and coloured Christmas lights imparting to cities and villages the appearance of starlit skies/ the happy and inviting faces of their inhabitants/ decorated Christmas trees and traditional Christmas boats bringing back memories of childhood Christmases to locals and visitors alike / white picturesque villages and snow-covered mountain tops with modern ski centres/ burning fireplaces in luxurious hotels/ colourful fireworks on New Year’s Eve/ the custom of “Momogeroi” coming alive in the areas of Macedonia and Thrace / Athens and Thessaloniki welcoming the Christmas season with open air celebrations, streets and squares “wearing” colourful Christmas lighting and a variety of events, festivals and concerts.

The custom: In the village of Ayios Panteleimonas in Flórina, on December 23rd, the locals divide into groups and light bonfires at midnight, in the same way the shepherds did to warm up the newborn baby Jesus.

Taste

The sweet, traditional “flavours” typical of Christmas and New Year’s Eve in Greece / the delicious turkey stuffed with chestnuts and raisins adorning the festive table/ sweet Christmas temptations like traditional melomaḱάrona (honeyed cookies with walnuts); sweet-smelling kourabiédes (christmas butter cookies dusted with caster sugar) and delicious diples (sweet fried honey rolls dusted with cinnamon and ground walnuts) / mouthwatering stuffed tsourékia (a traditional sweet bread) prepared in elegant confectioner’s shops in Athens or Thessaloniki / mouth-watering steaming chicken soup - popular in Crete and other parts of the country / the custom of “gourounohara” /a piece of St. Basil's Pie (Vassilópita)/ delicious Christmas dishes and other delicacies prepared during this festive occasion.

The custom: Christópsomo (meaning Christ’s bread), customarily prepared in Crete and many other areas is a special sweet bread with a cross-shaped decoration and a walnut (the symbol of fertility) at its center, served on Christmas Day throughout Greece. Tasting it is a …must as cinnamon, honey and rosewater are some of its main ingredients!

Oneiroupoli_Drama. © GNTO/Drama Prefecture

Smell

The festive aromas in the atmosphere/ the warm scent of cinnamon, honey, nuts and sugar- the basic ingredients for the majority of Christmas sweets/ smoking chimneys and wood burning fireplaces in beautiful mountain villages, such as Megalo Papigko in the area of Ioannina/ the fragrant nature on Mt. Pilio’s forests in Magnesia/the strong smell of incense burning in churches in every city, town or village / the sweet aroma of chestnuts roasting on an open fire/ delicious smells coming from the kitchens of cute little tavernas in Plaka or Psirri, Athens.

The custom: On Kefallonia island, in the Ionian Sea, locals keep a “fragrant” custom called “kolónies” (meaning perfumes); this is a “sweet-smelling” ritual for the New Year’s Eve when people sprinkle each other with colognes and perfumes.

Hear

The Christmas melodies filling the air in every street of the city/ children singing carols while rythmically striking small metallic triangles with a small metal rod on Christmas Eve and on New Year’s Eve/ church bells inviting the faithful to attend the Christmas mass / festive open air concerts in Syntagma square and all around Athens/ street musicians performing in the city centre/ Christmas parties held in clubs and bars all over Greece.

The custom: In the mornings of Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve children knock on peoples’ doors and joyfully sing Christmas carols. According to tradition opening your door to children singing carols brings good luck and prosperity!

Oneiroupoli_Drama. © GNTO/Drama Prefecture

“Feel”

The amazing Greek nature/ an impressive fir forest in Pertouli, Trikala/ a kiss under the Christmas mistletoe/ the shiny bright ornaments adorning central shopping centres in Athens/ the festive nights’ atmosphere in Arahova on Mt. Parnassus and the sacred character of Delphi’s ancient oracle, only 8 Km away/ the family love and affection adding to the Season’s warm atmosphere/ the touch of a beloved person’s hand when the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve.

The custom: On New Year's Day, just after the morning mass, Greeks break a pomegranate on the doorstep before entering their houses; the fruit’s bright red seeds have carried a symbolic meaning since the ancient times and are believed to bring prosperity, abundance in the family, and good luck to everyone.

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